TOWSON – The NFL labor dispute remains in litigation mode, a bitter war of attrition that has produced far more acrimony than common ground.
As the lockout drags into its third month, Baltimore Ravens veteran wide receiver and player representative Derrick Mason sees no reason to be encouraged about the prospects for a new collective bargaining agreement anytime soon.
"No closer than it was three months ago," Mason said. "It’s sad to say, but that’s the reality of things. I’m an optimistic person, but the way it’s looking I can’t see anything happening, not this month, not next month, which is June.
"We’re talking maybe July, and that’s a maybe. Hopefully, we can put everything aside and get a deal worked out so we don’t miss football."
Mason contributed to the harsh nature of the impasse earlier this spring when he ripped NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, dismissing the league’s top executive as "a joke."
Mason even wore a T-shirt during an ESPN interview where he brandished his words across his chest.
And he hasn’t backed down from his words or apologized for his verbal assault on Goodell.
"No, I don’t regret it," Mason said. "Why? I’m not going to go back on my words. You go back on your words, then you’re being a coward, more or less. I said what I said, I meant it at that time, and I just let it go.
"When you’re the face of the NFL, as Goodell is, you’ve got to have thick skin. He got booed at the draft, and he walked and he smiled. You’ve got to have thick skin."
Mason said it’s only fair that Goodell face criticism considering the nature of the work stoppage.
And he said NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith accepts that he’s a target as a matter of business.
"DeMaurice, he’s got thick skin, and guys have been coming at him," Mason said. "When you’re the face of either the players or the league, those are shots you’ve got to be willing to take, and it’s not just me giving those shots, it’s other guys.
"It just so happened I was the first guy to say it. I have no hard feelings towards him, I just want a deal done, as everybody else does and I know he does as well, so hopefully we’ll get something done."
ZBIKOWSKI STEPPING OUT OF THE RING: Ravens backup safety Tom Zbikowski is hanging up his boxing gloves for the remainder of the offseason, a decision triggered by a desire to get back to concentrating solely on football.
The former Notre Dame star won all three of his matches and has withdrawn from a June 4 bout against fellow cruiserweight Mike Howell at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
If potential free agent Dawan Landry doesn’t return, Zbikowski is slated to compete with Haruki Nakamura for the starting safety job opposite Ed Reed.
"It was time to start the transition back to football," Zbikowski said in a statement released by his camp. "My teammates are starting to organize some workouts, so it’s just time to head back.
"Wish I had more time to do both. I’m getting ready for this upcoming season. It’s going to be a big year for the Ravens and I need to be ready."
Zbikowski (4-0, three knockouts), defeated Blake Warner in Oklahoma April 23.
The former third-round draft pick allegedly tested positive for traces of marijuana and was suspended for 45 days, but the validity of the test was questioned by his manager and lawyer, Mike Joyce.
The suspension was overturned by the boxing commission when Zbikowski was retested by a professional testing lab and tested negative for all illegal substances.
"It was a very tough decision for me," Zbikowski said. "It was a tremendous experience fighting for Arum again. As tough as it is to turn yourself into a fighter, it’s equally as tough to transition into an NFL player."